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Greek rail workers are striking as anger grows over a deadly rail crash that killed at least 46 people late on Tuesday.
The head-on-crash – which saw a passenger train and freight carrier collide on Greece’s busiest line between Athens and Thessaloniki – has sent Greece into a period of national mourning.
More than 50 people remained hospitalised, most in the central Greek city of Larissa. Several are in a serious condition.
But as the dust settles from the tragedy, Greek citizens are demanding answers.
“Pain has turned into anger for the dozens of dead and wounded colleagues and fellow citizens,” the rail workers’ union said in a statement.
Railway workers’ associations across the country called strikes, halting national rail services and the subway in Athens, to protest working conditions and what they described as a lack of modernisation of the Greek rail system.
The railway workers strike began at 6am, and was due to last the whole day. National rail services and the Athenian subway have been impacted.
Arrested stationmaster ‘accepts some blame’
A stationmaster arrested following the rail disaster appeared before a prosecutor on Thursday. His lawyer said the 59-year-old was “devastated”, and assumed some responsibility for the disaster while claiming that other factors were at play. He faces charges of manslaughter through negligence, and putting lives at risk.
The government blamed the crash on a “tragic human error” and acknowledged “chronic weaknesses”. But rail unions blamed systemic problems in the rail system.
Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned following the crash, his replacement tasked with setting up an independent inquiry looking into the causes of the accident.
“Responsibility will be assigned,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address late Wednesday after visiting the scene of the collision. “We will work so that the words ‘never again’ … will not remain an empty pledge. That I promise you.”
A judicial inquiry will try to establish why the two trains traveling in opposite directions were on the same track.
More than 300 people were on board the train, many of them students returning from a holiday weekend and annual Carnival celebrations around Greece.
How has the international community reacted?
As Greece reeled from its deadliest ever train disaster, Pope Francis and European leaders sent messages of sympathy. Among them were the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose country is recovering from devastating earthquakes last month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent a message in Greek, writing “The people of Ukraine share the pain of the families of the victims. We wish a speedy recovery to all the injured.”